The general picture of the reality in Iraq is that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's regime is begging America to supply sophisticated weapons to combat terrorism. Foreign Minister Zebari has informed the US that Iraq is in need of American assistance with intelligence analysis, surveillance and the presence of political advisers (alongside the existing joint military and security committees). Official spokesmen have also asked America to send special teams to help combat the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (also known by its Arabic acronym "Daash"). Iran has been donating aid to the Iraqi government to combat Daash whereas Russia has been supplying Al-Maliki's government with weapons as part of one of the biggest corruption scandals in history.
The Iraq regime has waged a full-on war against Daash and it has been calling on volunteers to enlist in the fight against the Islamist group. This comes at a time when a coalition including a number of armed forces, the police, security forces, SWAT teams and Al-Maliki's notorious "Gold" team have all come together to confront the group. The total number of fighters at the prime minister's disposal is estimated at one million, in addition to which the US has expedited an order for Hellfire missiles, surveillance aircraft and other military hardware requested by Al-Maliki. America is also looking to train Iraqi Special Forces in Jordan. A US military official confirmed that, "a special operations centre near Amman is among the sites under consideration".
We witnessed the climax of this comedic fight against Daash when US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the organisation is a threat to US national security. Kerry called upon the whole world to support Al-Maliki in his fight against terrorism, which he is carrying out in an effort to save the whole world. Where is Daash? According to the Iraqi regime, Daash is located in two cities, Ramadi and Fallujah, in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Coincidentally, Anbar and five other provinces have been the scene of peaceful anti-government demonstrations and sit-ins to which Al-Maliki's regime has responded with brutality.
Consider the common slogan in all of these popular demonstrations all over Iraq: "He is a liar! Nouri Al-Maliki is a liar!" The whole world still remembers former US Secretary of State Colin Powell's lies to the UN when he insisted that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. These statements were furthered by British Prime Minister Tony Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad was capable of bombing British bases in Cyprus within 45 minutes. If we do not reflect upon these lies and consider the truths of the situation that are available to us in ready-made packaging, how will we be able to prevent ourselves from justifying bombing the people of Anbar and labelling them as terrorists? It was, after all, the people of western Iraq who fought against the US invasion forces and their terrorism. Were these citizens not the individuals who forced the United States and Britain to re-evaluate their plan for the invasion of the "Terrorist Triangle" (Iraq, Syria and Iran)? Were they not the people who forced the biggest army in the world to retreat from Iraq while the regime maintained close ties with the occupiers? Al-Maliki's regime now has the nerve to claim that it alone freed Iraq.
In order to uncover the truth, one must look at mountains of misinformation presented by the media as they repeat the "War on Terror" mantra. The reconfiguration of the geopolitical map of the region can also serve as an indicator of the truth. It will tell us who was really behind the struggle against the occupation and how the accusation of "terrorism" came about. Al-Maliki's regime is a sectarian regime which has used "terrorism" as an excuse for collective punishment, bombing and displacing the people of Anbar time and time again.
The US Brookings Institution released statistics related to the period of Iraqi resistance prior to the American withdrawal from Iraq. The data for the years 2005 to 2008 revealed the following:
- Before the United States announced its intention to withdraw from Iraq, the number of attacks on US troops averaged 160 per day, especially in 2007 and the periods at the beginning and the end of the occupation. Thus, the US announced its intention to withdraw its forces from Iraq.
- The Anbar province witnessed an average of 19 attacks per day. These attacks reached an average of 41 attacks per day at the height of the resistance. Anbar came second to Baghdad, which on average witnessed 33 attacks per day and reached a high of 58 attacks per day at the height of resistance when the majority of such efforts were transferred from Anbar to Baghdad.
This does not suggest that the people of Anbar are the only ones who participated in the resistance movement but that Anbar was considered a haven for fighters from all provinces. The reason for this is that Anbar constitutes approximately one third of Iraq and covers land in the North and South while remaining open to provinces in the middle of the country. Furthermore, the Anbar province also shares borders with three foreign countries. Historically, Anbar has remained politically immune to the central government's influence; this was true when the Baath Party ruled and in the era of the monarchy. During the 1960s and 70s, many communists sought refuge there by travelling from Baghdad through the marshes to Kurdistan. While some of Anbar's citizens undoubtedly cooperated with the occupation, they by no means represent the majority.
The Anbar province witnessed twice as many resistance operations against the occupation as all of the southern provinces together. Yet, Anbar's population is equivalent to the combined population of the southern provinces, including Basra and Babylon, which are virtually the only two southern provinces to resist the occupation during the main period of armed resistance. It is evident that sectarian divisions and Iranian influence played a large part in strengthening the US military supply lines that ran for hundreds of kilometres from the Kuwaiti border to Baghdad. Thus, many fighters sought refuge in Baghdad, Anbar and many of the central provinces at that time because societal and geographic realities were more open, including the border with Syria.
The Maliki regime used the sectarian army and Special Forces as a shield to protect American military forces at a time of direct military occupation. These unmatched forces were used in an unprecedented way to fight rebels in Fallujah and Ramadi, who were always known for their peaceful approach to demonstrations until very recently. The regime has been claiming falsely that these two cities are filled with Al-Qaeda and Daash forces. It is well-known that Iraq was never a hotbed for these types of organisations. The Iraqi people did not know much about Al-Qaeda and its affiliates prior to the US occupation and the establishment of a sectarian regime, just as the Syrian people knew very little about Al-Qaeda and dozens of other terrorist, Salafist and Islamist organisations before the Assad regime decided to kill and torture its own people and target and bomb peaceful anti-government demonstrations.
Once again we have been hearing the cries for help due to the escalating humanitarian crisis inside Iraq. As of last Saturday, 357 people have been killed of wounded in the violence in Anbar, a statistic that has been released by the provincial Department of Health. Many families have resorted to burying their loved ones in their back yards. Thousands of families are fleeing and experiencing a new type of hell as they face numerous bombings, arrests and a blockade. They face collective punishment as they are forced to leave their homes due to violence and a lack of health services and resources. Many children are now unable to go to school and continue their education.
In the majority of Iraq's regions, children and adults alike have tasted the bitterness of migration and internal displacement, exactly as is happening to the Syrians. In fact, many Syrians believe that their experience is a repeat of what happened to the Iraqi people during the brutal invasion. The breadth of humanitarian and urban destruction in Iraq right now is unmatched because of the regime's efforts to obliterate all uprisings and peaceful protests that are demanding the simplest of human rights: the right to live with dignity. Al-Maliki's regime has succeeded in converting religious doctrine into a plethora of religious identities that mask a greater national identity. Therefore, the regime is able to justify many unacceptable and unimaginable actions such as institutionalised violence and the creation of a sectarian identity. Soon, there will be no more faces left to slap and no more violence to be tolerated. Madness will become the common language between mothers and their sons and we will have to read elegies for the Iraqi people.
The author is an Iraqi novelist. This is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi on 13 January, 2014.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.